Could your mood, memory, + psychology be affected by lymph?
In the early 1900s, a prominent psychiatrist named Dr. Henry Cotton ran the world’s most prestigious mental institution based on the premise that depression and insanity were linked to a deep underlying infection of some kind.1
Dr. Cotton was famous for pulling infected teeth out of his mentally ill patients and, if that didn’t work, he would excise tonsils, testicles, ovaries, and, in some cases, colons. After his death, the practice faded into obscurity until recently, when a professor at Stony Brook University suggested certain psychiatric concerns should be considered a kind of infectious condition.2
A growing body of evidence supports this theory, and Ayurveda may have discovered this relationship thousands of years ago! In a in JAMA Psychiatry in 2013, the medical records of over three million people were looked at, and it was found that any history of hospitalization for infection was associated with a 62% increased risk of later developing a mood disorder.4 The same study found having an autoimmune condition increased risk of future mood-related concerns by 45%.4
Mood, Brain, + Immune Function
The relationship between mood, brain, and immune function has been recently given much more credibility due to a recent discovery. It has been long thought that the central nervous system was devoid of any lymphatic drainage, which typically governs immune response . . . until now! Recently, the University of Virginia discovered the brain was, in fact, drained by hidden lymphatic vessels (glymphatics) that support healthy immunity, inflammation response, and mood.3,7
If lymphatic vessels in the brain or elsewhere become congested, the result could be an underlying immune compromise that could leave pathogens in the brain and body, increasing risk of infection, inflammation, autoimmunity, and psychiatric concerns.1,2
The relationship between mood and inflammation, now thought to be linked to poor lymphatic brain drainage, was recently studied in a meta-analysis, which suggests when serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors were given alongside NSAIDS (Advil, Tylenol, asprin), there was a significant reduction in need for psychiatric care.5
Other studies link mood issues with elevated inflammation markers, like C-reactive protein (CRP), with psychiatric symptoms.6 Again, this connection is possibly due to congested or poorly draining brain lymph.
Ancient Lymph Wisdom
So will I need to get all my teeth removed?
While Dr. Cotton may have been onto something in the early 1900s, the need to extract infected body parts today is unnecessary and Ayurveda may have discovered the answer thousands of years ago.
In Ayurveda, lymph (rasa) is considered the body’s nutrient fluid, taking nutrients on the journey from the digestive tract to the cells. It is the highway for the immune system and waste removal. Ayurvedic therapies for congested lymph were common, and used daily as the first line of defense against ill health.
For example, thousands of years ago, Ayurvedic texts discussed lymph vessels in the brain that line the sagittal and transverse sinuses in the skull. These sinuses were considered drainage pathways for the body’s brain washing fluid called cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). Treatments for these lymph vessels in the brain, with techniques like nasya (nasal inhalation) and other herbal therapies, such as brahmi, manjistha, and bacopa, are aimed at deep psychiatric and trauma-triggered imbalances.
The glymphatic system is called tarpaka kapha in Ayurveda, and it means to store, record or hold on to. Emotional trauma is felt in the aspect of the emotional heart called sadhaka pitta. The trauma or emotional impression is then carried to the tarpaka kapha (brain lymph) via prana vata. These impressions are stored or written on the waxy myelin sheaths of the inner white matter of the brain, also part of tarpaka kapha. Without a healthy flow of the glymphatic system, toxins can build up in the brain blocking clarity, awareness, mood stability along with a healthy inflammation and immune response.
Today, discovery of these lymph vessels is giving researchers the link they need that may connect immunity, infection, mood, and inflammation.
How Does Lymph Work?
The lymphatic system starts as lacteals lining the intestinal tract that absorb nutrients and toxins, mostly fats and proteins. If the intestinal skin becomes irritated, the lymph around the gut, called gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), can become congested. Many experts agree this is where 80% of the body’s immunity lies. If this major hub of lymph becomes congested, due to poor digestion or stress impacting beneficial intestinal microbes, the entire lymphatic system can become congested.
Congested lymph can back up into the brain’s glymphatic system, the skin-associated lymphoid tissue (SALT), causing a litany of skin concerns, as well as mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT), which drains all the mucus membranes and lymphatic vessels that provide immunity and toxic drainage for every cell of the body.
While we rest, there are tiny glymphatic channels that open up and drain toxic waste and proteins. The brain dumps about 3 pounds of toxins from the brain each year while you sleep. This is the entire weight of the brain in toxins that get processed through these channels.7, 8
Science has mapped the link between brain lymph congestion, mood, immunity, and inflammatory concerns in the body and mind, and now they are finding a relationship to our long-term cognitive function as well. Learn how to detox your brain glymphatics here, and deepen your knowledge of the lymphatic system in general with the free Miracle of Lymph ebook.
Are you supporting your lymph for better mood and cognitive function? What works for you?